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The County Court 


District ol West Augusta, Virginia, 


i^ngnsta Town, near Washington, Pennsylvania, 


An Historical Sketch by Boyd Gromrine. 



VIRGINIA, HELD 1777-1780. 

Printed by the Observer Job Rooms, 
for the Washington County Historical Society, 

May, 1905. 

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STLVANIA, 1 776- 1 777. 

An Historical Sketch by Boyd Crumrine. 


On a small field in what has hitherto been known as the 
Gabby Farm, now owned by John W. Donnan, Esq., and a number 
of other gentlemen of Washington, Pa., is soon to be placed a 
monument of polished granite bearing the following inscription: 

On This Spot Was Held in 1776 

TK^-C^anty Caurt for the District of West Augusta, Virginia, 

The First Court Held by any English-Speaking People 

West of the Monongahela River. 

Erected by 
The Washington County Historical Society in 1905. 

T^ > locality in which this commemorative tablet is to be 
placed is in its modem dress one of the many beautiful localities 
of Washington County. The land is now almost all cleared of 
timber, and lies in restful and well-cultivated fields skirted with 
woodland around upon the uplands about it. Looking to the 
north one follows the windings of Chartiers Creek as it flows toward 
the Ohio River more than thirty miles away; and looking to the 
south he follows the beautiful valley of the same stream as it 
approaches from its source near the village of Prosperity. Upon 
the top of the ridge to the eastward is the distributing reservoir 
of the Citizens Water Company, and beyond and out of sight 


Washington County Historical Society. 


further to the east is the Borough of Washington with at present 
about 23,000 inhabitants; while toward the west one overlooks 
directly the valley of the Ghartiers and beyond it'for a considerable 
distance habitations of peace and plenty lying in front of the 
ridge of low-lying and rounded hills that receive the setting sun. 

How unlike what one sees to-day was this locality one hundred 
and twenty-nine years ago! Then, we must remember, all that 
was within sight of us, had we stood upon the spot to be com- 
memorated, was not only woodland, but more than woodland, a 
wilderness, except where a field or a roadway had been cleared and 
a pioneer cabin erected. The woodlands of to-day are cleared 
of undergrowth, underbrush, weeds and thickets, and we are thus 
permitted upon pleasure or upon business bent to pass through 
them at all points at will. But then, save for a short distance 
around the lonely cabin, out of sight of the nearest settled neigh- 
bor, miles away perhaps, the whole country was so covered not 
only by the original forest timber but by undergrowth and thickets 
of fallen brush and brambles, especially where gathered and im- 
pacted along the darkened streams, that travel at will was im- 
possible except by narrow passage-ways cut out by the axe and 
leveled by the mattock and spade, or long before by the tramp of 
Indians passing "single-file." It is a settled fact that in this section 
of Pennsylvania there were in those days no cleared valleys and 
plains except here and there along the great rivers whose ovei-flows 
in the winter and spring kept their borders swept of the younger 
growth and fallen logs and branches. Yet in this locality and 
under these conditions was once erected a primitive court-house 
wherein to hold a court of record for the administration of public 
justice between man and man. 

We propose to show that this ancient court-house stood upon 
the place which we now will mark for the knowledge of thode who 
may come after us in all the time to come. ' 

It is certainly a matter of great interest to know exactly when 
and where was set up the first permanent home in a new country 
for the first time occupied by a civilized people; when and where 
the first school-house was established; when and where was %* 

placed the first church wherein the Grod of nations and peoples 
was to be worshiped; and, last but not least, when and where was 
erected the first court of Justice where the civil rights of men 
and their liberties were to be protected and enforced. These and 
and many other matters that relate to the ancestors of a people 
are worthy of study and interest; for, as has frequently beei\ 



Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 5 

observed, men who take- no interest in the facts of the lives of their 
ancestors are never likely to accomplish themselves any work 
that is worthy of remembrance. And it is of itself a striking fact 
that this court-house, the position of which we now perpetuate, 
was not the court-house of any municipal division of Pennsylvania, 
but of a people of the neighboring colony of Virginia; and that 
Virginia had sat down upon the Valleys of the Monongahela and 
Ohio, and the hill countries adjacent therto, and called them her 
own, with all that that implied. 

Pennsylvania's Boundary Controversies. 

Pennsylvania has had three controversies relating to her 
boundaries, all of which at times were likely to lead to grave 
complications; one with Maryland, one with Connecticut, and one 
with Virginia. 

It is not proposed to discuss the facts and merits of these 
controversies; a large volume might be written of each of them, 
and the material thereof would be abundant and full of historical 
interest. SuflSce it to state that the controversy with Maryland 
arose out of a dispute as to where the division line between Penn- 
sylvania and Maryland should be run. In the early stages of the 
dispute there was bloodshed between the Maryland and Penn- 
sylvania settlers upon the territory along the border line south of 
Lacanster and York counties. Colonel Thomas Cresap, the father 
of Captain Michael Cresap, well known in this section in early 
days, took a prominent part in these disturbances. But, after years 
of controversy, an agreement in writing between the heirs of Wm. 
Penn and Lord Baltimore was reached in 1732, and subsequently 
a bill in equity was filed by the Penns in the High Court of 
Chancery in England to enforce that agreement. The pleadings 
and testimony in this cause, with the briefs of counsel on the part 
of Pennsylvania, fill the whole of Volume XVI. of the Second Series 
of Pennsylvania Archives, and the decision by Lord Chancellor 
Hardwicke in favor of Pennsylvania, on May 15, 1750, the lawyer 
will find reported in Penn v. Lord Baltimore, 1 Vesey Sr., 444. 
The result of that decision was that in 1768 Mason and Dixon, 
two eminent civil engineers from London, ran a line known by 
their name as the Pennsylvania and Maryland boundary, from the 
circle twelve miles distant from New Castle on the Delaware as 
a center, to the second crossing of Dunkard Creek in the present 
County of Greene, where they were stopped by the Indians about 

6 Washington County Historical Society. 

thirty-six miles from the point where the line should have termi- 
nated. That line, extended subsequently to its full distance, is our 
southern boundary to-day. 

As to the controversy with Connecticut: Beginning in 1753, a 
company called the Susquehanna Company formed of associators 
in Connecticut, conceiving that that colony had jurisdiction over 
certain lands within the limits of Pennsylvania, jumped across 
both New York and New Jersey, sat down along the North branch 
of the River Susquehanna, and laid out and named seventeen 
towns (or what we would call townships), in the most beautiful 
valleys along that river. These towns were made to contain about 
twenty-five square miles of territory each, and their boundaries 
were not coterminous with the boundaries of any of the municipal 
divisions of Pennsylvania, but, settlers crowding into them under 
titles granted by the Susquehanna Company, the General Assembly 
of Connecticut created these townships into a new county called 
Westmoreland, and attached it to the jurisdiction of Litchfield 
County, Connecticut. This Connecticut County, wholly inside of 
Pennsylvania and separated from the parent colony by New York 
and New Jersey, embraced lands lying in what is now Luzerne, 
Susquehanna, Wyoming and Bradford counties, Pennsylvania, a 
large portion of the northeastern part of our State. Then followed 
between the Pennsylvania settlers and the Connecticut claimants 
actual war and bloodshed, called the Pennamite and Yankee War, 
suspended only by the revolution of the American Colonies from 
the mother country in 1776. After the surrender of Yorktown, 
on October 19, 1781, the Congress of the then United States at the 
instance of the contending States of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, 
esablished a Court of Commissioners who sat at Trenton, New 
Jersey, and, after hearing and argument, decided the question of 
jurisdiction in favor of Pennnsylvania; but not until the year 1800 
had passed was full provision made for quieting the titles of land- 
holders and the controversy ended. The historical material neces- 
sary for a full understanding of the Pennamite and Yankee War, 
including a discussion from the Pennsylvania point of view by the 
celebrated Dr. William Smith, Provost of the University of Penn- 
sylvania, make up the entire contents of Volume XVIII. of the 
Second Series of the Pennsylvania Archives; and an admirable 
historical account of the controversy, entitled "Brief of a Title in 
the Seventeen Townships," etc., was published in 1879 from the 
pen of Hon. Henry M. Hoyt, then Governor of Pennsylvania. 

It is in the boundary controversy with Virginia, however, that 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 7 

we of Southwestern Pennsylvania are most Interested, yet only 
such a notice of this subject may be made as will sufElclently explain 
the special purpose of this paper. A very full discussion Is con- 
tained In our History of Washington County, pp. 158-222, published 
In 1882, and an Interesting paper upon the land titles in this section 
of Pennsylvania, originating In Virginia certificates of entry, is 
found In the Report of the Pennsylvania Secretary of Internal Af- 
fairs for 1895, pp. A. 197-214. 

The Earlleat Settlements. 

The country west of the Alleghany Mountains was naturally a 
prize to be coveted by the colonial jurisdictions within reach of it. 
Look upon a map of it, and see how well it is watered. Then 
Imagine it in Its virgin condition, covered with forests of magnificent 
trees, eversnvhere except perhaps along the large rivers where the 
adjacent valleys were swept clear by every freshet or fiood. And 
it was full of game. Thomas Hutchlns, an engineer with Bouquet's 
Expedition In 1764, wrote of it in his Topographical Description of 
Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, published in London in 1778: 
"The whole country abounds in Bears, Elks, Buflalos, Deer, Turkeys, 
etc., an unquestionable proof of the goodness of its Soil." He quotes 
from Gordon, a still earlier explorer: "This country may, from a 
proper knowledge, be affirmed to be the most healthy, the most 
pleasant, the most commodious, and the most fertile spot on earth, 
known to European people." And Francis Parkman, writing in his 
Conspiracy of Pontiac, p. 147, of the country west of the AUeghanles 
as it was in 1760, says: "One vast and continuous forest shadowed 
the fertile soil, covering the land as the grass covers the garden 
lawn, sweeping over hill and hollow in endless undulation, burying 
mountains in verdure, and mantling brooks and rivers from the 
light of day." 

Up to the final treaty of peace between France and England, 
which terminated the French and Indian War, signed on February 
10, 1763, all our country west of the Alleghany Mountains was 
claimed by France. In the library of Washington and Jefferson 
College there is a rare and valuable general atlas of the world, 
published at Paris in 1757. In this atlas, entitled "Atlas Unlversel, 
par M. Robert de Vaugondy, Oeorgraphe Ordinaire du Roy," etc., 
there is a map, the ninety-eighth of the series, which shows a part 
of North America, embracing the Monongahela and Ohio valleys, 
and purporting to have been based upon the surveys of Joshua 


8 Washington County Historical Society. 

Fry and Peter Jefferson made in 1754, and those upon the surveys 
of Christopher Gist made in 1751. On the map is represented the 
boundary line between Pennsylvania and Louisiana as lying along 
the Alleghany Mountains, and Louisiana, as French territory from 
the mouth of the Mississippi to the headwaters of all streams 
emptying into it. And, strange to say, there is laid down upon it 
Chartiers Creek, as emptying from the south into the Ohio, "ou 
Splawacippiki," and Pierre Rogue (or Redstone Creek) as flowing 
from the east into the Monongahela, "ou Mohongalo.'' On another 
map of the same period whose author cannot now be recalled by 
the writer, there is laid down the Wassameking, the small stream 
passing around the southwest corner of the Borough of Washington, 
and Wissameking was a name in the tongue of the Delaware Indians 
meaning "Catfish." 

At the time of the publication of this map in 1757 there were 
no permanent homes west of the mountains; though here and there 
were to be found adventurers, traders and trappers, and doubtless 
some of these had blazed out tracts of land which they hoped to 
hold as their own when protective titles could be obtained. As 
early as 1745, perhaps, the Eckerlin brothers, Gabriel, Samuel and 
Israel, had come into the western wilderness from the Bphrata 
Community near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and with their few fol- 
lowers built their cabins near the mouth of Dunkard Creek in the 
present Greene County, Pennsylvania, and these learned and pious 
Germans must have been the earliest immigrants to come upon the 
waters of the Monongahela to stay; but in 1757, having then 
removed their settlement across the Monongahela into a bottom 
near the mouth of the Cheat River, Dr. Samuel Eckerlin went down 
into the Shenandoah Valley with peltry to purchase supplies, when 
a band of Indians led by two Jesuit Priests broke up the settlement, 
killed and scalped a number of the settlers, and carried off the 
other two brothers, Gabriel and Israel, with their servant Johann 
Schilling, as heretical prisoners. On Dr. Samuel's return to the 
home on the Cheat, finding nothing but ruins and the hoops upon 
which scalps had been dried, he believed that his two brothers were 
among the slain, and went back to the German settlements upon 
the Shenandoah. Yet the two brothers were not slain, but were 
brought to Fort Duquesne, and then taken to Montreal, thence to 
Quebec, and thence to France, where they died as heretical pris- 
oners in a monastery. The fate of these brothers was unknown for 
seven years after their capture; and it is no doubt truthfully said 
that "this is the only known case of religious persecution by the 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 9 

Roman Catholic clergy in provincial Pennsylvania:" See The 
Grerman Sectarians of Pennsylvania, by Dr. Julius F. Sachse, Vol. 
XL, pp. 342-351, and Withers' Chronicles of Border Warfare, pp. 
[59], 75. In Withers* account of these first settlers the Christian 
name of Dr. Eckerlin is erroneously given as Thomas, instead of 

It will have been observed that the Eckerlins and the other 
earliest settlers west of the mountains had first gone from Central 
Pennsylvania down into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and 
thence across the mountains into the upper Monongahela Valley, as 
early as 1745. Braddock's Road was not opened to immigrants 
until 1755, and Forbes' Route from Raystown (now Bedford) to 
Fort Duquesne, known as the Pennsylvania Road, was not opened 
until 1758. This will account for the fact that the immigration into 
our western country began from Virginia, and that settlers from 
Virginia had the first foot-hold in the valleys of the Monongahela 
and Ohio. And it is a fact that for a long period Pennsylvania 
neglected her possessions west of the AUeghanies, and that Virginia 
thus obtained her ascendency and held to it quite a long period. 

The Virginia Occupation. 

There shall now be touched upon very briefly the events which 
led to the establishment of two governments in the territory west 
of the Alleghany Mountains. 

In 1748 Thomas Lee of the King's Council in the then royal 
colony of Virginia formed the design of effecting settlements on 
the uninhabited lands west of the mountains, through the agency 
of a land corporation called the Ohio Company. This company 
obtained from the English King a grant of five hundred thousand 
acres of land, to be taken chiefly on the south side of the Ohio, west 
of the Monongahela. Relatives of George Washington were inter- 
ested in this scheme. Special inducements were offered to settlers. 
As neither the southern nor the western boundary lines of Penn- 
sylvania, about its southern comer, had yet been ascertained, it 
was not known whether or not the Ohio Company's grant inter- 
fered with the proprietary grant made to William Penn in 1681. 
But France, claiming to the headwaters of the Monongahela and 
Allegheny Rivers and their tributaries, began in 1749 to give 
notice of actual possession by depositing leaden plates with in- 
scriptions asserting jurisdiction, at the mouths of the large streams, 
and by erecting a chain of forts from Presqu' Isle (Erie) across the 


lo Washington County Historical Society. 

portage and down French Creek to and along the Allegheny; and 
in 1753, Dinwiddle sent George Washington to visit the French 
forces up the Allegheny to learn what the building oi these forts 
meant. On his return and report made, a body of Virginia militia, 
under command of William Trent with whom was Ensign Edward 
Ward, were sent early in 1754 to erect a Virginia fort at or near the 
Junction of the Monongahela with the Allegheny. The fort having 
been commenced. Captain Trent returned to Will's Creek, now 
Cumberland, leaving Ensign Ward to complete the fort; but on 
April 17, 1754, a large body of French and Indians came down the 
Allegheny in boats and compelled the surrender of the fort, but 
permitted Ward and his small body of men to return across the 
mountains. This Ensign Edward Ward shall be met with again 
in our present study. 

Thus was begun the war known as the French and Indian War, 
between England on the one hand and France with the Indians as 
their allies on the other, terminated by the treaty of peace of 
February 10, 1763, by which France left to the English all her pos- 
sessions east of the Mississippi, including Canada, and excepting 
New Orleans. But the building of the fort at the Forks of the 
Ohio by the Virginians awakened Pennsylvania to an assertion of 
her rights to the lands west of the Alleghanies, and to a dispute 
with Virginia as to her western boundary that was not terminated 
and the line agreed upon until 1780. 

As heretofore stated, the full story of this controversy cannot 
be here written (See Crumrine's History, pp. 158-222), but remem- 
bering that a large majority of the settlers west of the Alleghanies 
came across the mountains by way of Braddock's Road, opened in 
1755, and other passes to the south of it, and was afterwards 
followed by a minority from Eastern and Middle Pennsylvania by 
way of Forbes' Route, opened in 1758, suffice it to state that at 
least from 1773 until 1780, two governments, one of the proprietary 
province of Pennsylvania, and the other of the crown colony of 
Virginia, exercised jurisdiction over all the settled territory lying 
between the mountains to the east of us, and the western boundary 
of Pennsylvania wherever it actually was, for that boundary -had 
not yet been run upon the ground; thus at the same time, each of 
the two governments having its own full equipment of courts, 
judges. Juries, magistrates and constables, as well as militia organ- 
izations, and both subjected to the raids and ravages of Indian 

It was a striking condition of public affairs. The Pennsylvania 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia, i i 

adherents and the Virginia adherents including the Maryland im- 
migrants who generally afElliated with the Virginians, would seem 
from the records preserved to have been as strangers to each other. 
The partisans of one jurisdiction seem to have kept out of the 
courts, superior and inferior, of the other; and they were in all 
things opposed to each other, except when confronted by a common 

Organization of Pennsylvania Counties. 

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, with its county seat first 
at Shippensburg, subsequently at Carlisle where it is to-day, was 
formed by an act of assembly passed January 27, 1750, Just about 
the time when the earliest settlers reached the valley of the 
Monongahela. That county embraced all the lands west of the 
North Branch of the Susquehanna, and north and west of the County 
of York, extending by a shading of inhabitants growing lighter and 
lighter with the approach to this western wilderness: (See Scull's 
Map of Pennsylvania, 1770, or Sayer & Bennett's Map, 1775.) At the 
time of its organization the Eckerlins and their companions were in 
the present Greene County near the mouth of Dunkard Creek; and 
in 1770, Thomas Gist, settled at Mount Braddock, and Captain 
William Crawford, afterwards burned at the stake by the Indians 
at Sandusky, Ohio, the former from Maryland, the latter from 
Virginia, were made justices of Qie peace and members of the 
courts of Cumberland County. Virginia had not yet extended the 
jurisdiction of her courts beyond the Alleghanies. Before this 
occurred, however, perhaps as early as 1767, settlements had begun 
to the west of the Monongahela, at the mouths of all the larger 
streams flowing into that river from the west, ready to move up those 
streams towards the head waters thereof; and, beginning as soon 
as the proprietary land office was opened on April 3, 1769, there was 
such a rush of pioneers into this region that in a year or two it may 
safely be said that there was no portion of what was afterwards 
erected into Washington County, then extending from the Ohio 
River at Pittsburg and the mouth of the Beaver, thence south to 
the southern boundary of Greene County, that was not to a more 
or less extent occupied by settlers. 

The situation made necessary a new county, and on March 9, 
1771, Bedford County was erected. By this time there is no doubt 
that all portions of the splendid country west of the Monongahela, 
and south and east of the Ohio River was well occupied by persons 

12 Washington County Historical Society. 

seeking permanent homes. On May 7, 1774, on the breaking out of 
Dunmore's Indian War, brought about by the slaughter of Logan's 
relatives on Yellow Greek, erroneously blamed upon Michael Gresap, 
Valentine Grawford, the brother of Gaptain William Grawford, 
writing from Jacob's Greek on the Youghiogheny to George Wash- 
ington, described the alarm of the settlers. "This alarm," said he, 
"caused the people to move from over the Monongahela, off Ghar- 
tiers and Raccoon (Greek), as fast as ever you saw them in the 
year 1756 or 1757, down in Frederick Gounty, Virginia. There 
were more than one thousand people crossed the Monongahela in 
one day at three ferries that are not one mile apart." Washington- 
Grawford Letters, 87. This indicates the extent of the settlements 
in what was afterwards Washington Gounty, in the spring of 1774, 
shown more certainly by official records. 

Bedford Gounty, formed on March 9, 1771, from the western 
part of Gumberland Gounty, extended to the western boundary of 
the state including all the c6untry west of the Alleghany mountains, 
with the exact location of the western boundary still undetermined. 
Two of the townships in the list formed by the Gourt of Quarter 
Sessions of that county on April 16, 1771, were Pitt Township and 
Springhill Township. The division line between them was a line 
drawn due west by the mouth of Redstone Greek. North of that 
line to the Kiskeminitas River was Pitt Township, and south of 
that line to the southern limit of the state was Springhill Township, 
embracing the whole of the present Greene Gounty. Both townships 
eastward embraced what are now parts of Westmoreland and Fayette 
counties. The tax-rolls for Bedford Gounty for the year 1772, (an 
official copy made in 1774 being in the writer's possession), shows 
that as taxables for 1772 Pitt Township had fifty-two landholders, 
twenty tenants, and thirteen single freemen; and Springhill Town- 
ship had three hundred and eight landholders, eighty-nine tenants, 
and fifty-eight single freemen; indicating conclusively that the 
great majority of the first settlers in this section had sat down in 
the region south of Washington, Pa., coming most probably from 
Virginia and Maryland. 

The county seat of Bedford Gounty was at Bedford about one 
hundred miles east from Pittsburg, where its first court was held 
on April 16, 1771, and George Wilson living near the mouth of 
George's Greek in what is now southern Fayette Gounty; Gaptain 
William Grawford, living on the Youghiogheny opposite what is 
now Gonnellsville; Thomas Gist, living at Mount Braddock, near 
Union town; and Dorsey Pentecost, then living on his tract called 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. i 3 

"Greenaway" in the "Forks of the Yough," but in 1777, removing 
to the East Branch of Chartiers Creek, were justices of the peace 
and judges of the county courts. Virginia at this date had not yet 
extended the jurisdiction of her courts over Western Pennsylvania. 

But the officials of the Province of Pennsylvania, seeing the 
extent to which her territory west of the Alleghanies was filling 
up with settlers chiefly from Virginia and Maryland, and not being 
unadvised, perhaps, of the future intention of Virginia to extend 
her jurisdiction over the valleys of the Monongahela and Ohio, 
having been in correspondence with the Virginia officials upon the 
subject from 1754, now came to the conclusion to pay more atten- 
tion to her own rights in these valleys, and on February 26, 1773, 
an act was passed by the provincial assembly creating the County 
of Westmoreland out of the western part of Bedford County, and 
extending westward to the boundary line of the province, still 
undetermined. This new county thus included all of Allegheny 
County east of the Allegheny River and south of the Monon- 
gahela; all of Beaver south of the Monongahela; all of Indiana and 
that part of Armstrong east of the Allegheny; all of Washington 
and Greene, and all of Fayette, making a county of magnificent 

The first county seat of Westmoreland County was at Hannas- 
town, a hamlet about three miles northeast of Greensburg, to which 
it was subsequently removed. The first justices and officers of its 
courts were commissioned in the name of His Majesty George III., 
the commissions purporting to have been granted by "Richard 
Penn, Esq., Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the 
Province of Pennsylvania and Counties of New Castle, Kent and 
Sussex, on the Delaware." 

Of the original townships of the new County of Westmoreland, 
two were Pitt and Springhill, with limits somewhat if not wholly 
the same as the limits of the townships of those names of Bedford 
County. But, as these townships, in which were all the lands of 
Pennsylvania west of the Monongahela River, were already so 
well settled, it is not necessary to particularize here the persons 
who took part in the business of .the courts of the county, either 
as judges, officers, juries, attorneys, or suitors. Suffice it to state 
that among the justices were, Capt. William Crawford, heretofore 
mentioned; Arthur St. Clair, afterwards a major-general in the 
American Revolution; Alexander McKee, of McKee's Rocks, after- 
wards with Simon Girty a deserter to the British-Indians; George 
Wilson, of George's Creek, now Fayette County; Robert 

14 Washington County Historical Society. 

Hanna, of Hannastown; James Caveat of near Pittsburgh, and sub- 
sequently Van Swearingen, the first Sheriff of Washington County, 
and Andrew McFarland and Oliver Miller, both of the Mingo Creek 
settlement, Washington County; and Henry Taylor, occupying lands 
just northeast of Washington, the great-grandfather of Hon J. F. 
Taylor, one of the present Judges of Washington County, was 
indicted for assault and battery, doubtless arising out of disputes 
concerning his boundary lines. 

The townships of Westmoreland County any part of which lay 
west of the Monongahela River were Pitt and Springhill, with 
boundaries the same as those two townships of Bedford County 
created two years before. As already indicated, the division line 
between them was a line due west by the mouth of Redstone Creek 
(Brownsville) to the western boundary of the state, thus passing 
rather centrally through our present townships of East Bethlehem 
West Bethlehem, Amwell, Morris, East Finley and West Finley, 
Washington County townships bordering on the present Greene 
County. All of Washington County north of that line, was in Pitt 
Township, and all south of that line, as well as all of Greene 
County, was in Springhill Township, Westmoreland County. 

The territory of Westmoreland County out of which Wash- 
ington County was afterwards erected, must have been very much 
of a wilderness in 1773, although at that date settlers had seated 
themselves in many parts of it; for, at the October Term, 1773, of 
the Court of Quarter Sessions of that County, "upon the Petition i 

of Divers Inhabitants of the township of Pitt" viewers were i 

appointed to lay out "a Public Road leading from the South-West ' 

side of the Monongahela River opposite the town of Pittsburg, by | 

Dr. Edward Hand's land on the Chartiers, to the Settlement up said | 

creek supposed to be at or near the western Boundary of the 
Province of Pennsylvania." There are reasons for believing that 
the settlement here referred to was the settlement in the neighbor- 
hood of the present Canonsburg, or on the East Branch of Chartiers. 
At all events this was the first attempt to lay out by judicial 
proceedings a public road in any part of what is now Washington 

Boundary Controversy With Virginia. 

The courts for Westmoreland County were not in existence 
for a year until the boundary controversy with Virginia broke out 
with virulence. Two years before the organization of Westmoreland 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 15 

County out of Bedford County, troubles between the Pennsylvania 
and Virginia adherents had occurred, and the situation at that 
time is well illustrated by a quaint letter to Arthur St. Clair 
written by George Wilson, dated Springhill Township, August 4, 
1771. Both St. Clair and Wilson were then Justices of the 
Bedford County court. Wilson had come into Pennsylvania from 
Virginia, in 1768 or 1769, and had settled on George's Creek, near 
New Geneva in the present Fayette County, and though from 
Virginia he became and remained an ardent adherent of Penn- 
sylvania. He was the great-grandfather of Hon. W. G. Hawkins, 
now the President Judge of the Orphans' Court for Allegheny 
county. A portion of his letter was as follows: 

"I am sorry that the first letter that I ever undertook to write 
you should contain a Detail of a Grievance so Disagreeable to 
me; Wars of any Cind are not agreeable to any Person Possessed 
of ye proper feelings of Humanity, but more especially intestin 
Broyls. I no sooner Returned Home from Court than I Found 
papers containing the Resolves, as they Called them, of ye inhabi- 
tants to ye Westward of ye Laurel hills, was handing fast about 
amongst ye people, in which amongst ye rest Was one that the 
Ware Resolved to oppose Every of Pens Laws as they Called 
them. Except Felonious actions, at ye risque of Life, & under ye 
penalty of fifty pounds, to be Recovered or Leveyed By themselves 
off ye Estates of ye failure. The first of them I found hardey 
anugh to ofter it in public I emediately ordered in Custoty, on 
which a large number Ware assembled as Was seposed to Resque 
the Prisonar. I indavoured, by all ye Reason I was Capable of to 
convince them of ye ill consequences that would of Consequence 
attend such a Rebellion, & Hapily Gained on the people to Consent 
to relinquish their Resolves & to Bum the Paper they signed — 
when ther Forman saw that the Arms of his centry, that as hee 
said He had thrown himself into, would not Resque him By force, 
hee catched up his Rifle, Which Was Well Loaded, Jumped out 
of Dors & swore if any man Cam nigh him he Would put what 
Was in his throo them; the Person that Had him in Custody 
Called for assistance in ye King's name, and in particular com- 
manded my self. I told him I was a Subject & was not fit to 
command if not willing to obey, on which I watched his eye until 
I saw a chance. Sprang in on him & Seized the Rifle by ye Muzzle 
ic« and held him So as he Could not Shoot me, untill more help Gott 

]iit in to my assistance, on which I Disarmed him & Broke his Rifle 

Hid to peses. I Res'd a Sore Bruse on one of my arms By a punch 

i6 Washington County Historical Society. 

of ye Gun in ye Struggle — Then put him under a Strong Guard, Told 
them ye Laws of their Countrie was stronger than the Hardist 
Ruffln amongst them. I found it necessary on their Compliance & 
altering their Resolves, and his promising to give himself no more 
trouble in ye affair, as hee found that the people Ware not as 
hardey as hee Expected them to be, to Relece him on his promise 
of Good Behavior:" I. St. Clair Papers, 257. 


The Virginia Courts. 

The organization of the Westmoreland County Court at Hannas- 
town, within thirty-five miles of Pittsburg, stirred the Virginians 
into action. The county was scarcely organized, when John Murray, 
the fourth Earl of Dunmore, one of the Scottish Peers, then the 
royal Governor of the colony of Virginia, made a visit to Fort 
Pitt (Pittsburg), and on his way stopped with Captain Crawford on 
the Youghiogheny. George Washington was to have come with 
him, but was prevented by the death of his step-daughter. Miss 
Nellie Custis. At Port Pitt Dunmore met Dr. John Connolly, who 
soon became his representative in the valley of the Monongahela. 
On January 1, 1774, Dr. Connolly posted a proclamation about 
Pittsburgh, announcing, under the authority of Lord Dunmore his 
appointment as Captain and Commandant of the militia of Pitts- 
burgh and its dependencies, and the intention of Dunmore to move 
the House of Burgesses of Virginia to erect a new county, to 
Include Pittsburgh, "for the redress of your Complaints, and to 
take every other Step that may attend to affording you that justice 
for which you Solicit," commanding all persons in the dependency 
of Pittsburgh to assembly themselves there as a militia on the 
25th instant, at which time he should communicate other matters 
for the promotion of public utility. 

This proclamation by Dr. Connolly led to his arrest by the 
Westmoreland County officials, and his detention in the county 
jail at Hannastown for a few days, when he was released on his 
promise to appear before the court at its next sessions in April. 
Connolly did report at the April term of the court, but it was with 
a body-guard of nearly two hundred men, and soon had made his 
own terms with the Westmoreland County officials; and on his way 
back to Pittsburgh he made several arrests of Pennsylvania ad- 
herents, and held them to trial or committed them to prison. 

In the following summer (1774) occurred the Indian outbreak 
following the alleged slaughter by Michael Cresap of the Indians 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 17 

along the Ohio, and the war known as Dunmore's War, which 
frightened the settlers from the Chartiers and Raccoon settlements. 
This was strictly a war between the Virginians and Indians; Penn- 
sylvania taking no part in it. Dunmore was with his army in person, 
and after peace was made there began a series of proclamations 
and counter proclamations between the two governors, relating to 
their respective clisiims in the disputed territory, and on his way 
home, in November, Lord Dunmore had Thomas Scott, living on 
Dunlaps Creek (near Brownsville), the first prothonotary of Wash- 
ington County soon to be erected, arrested and brought before him 
at Redstone Old Fort, for the oftence of exercising the office of a 
Pennsylvania magistrate. 

The County Court for the District of West Augusta. 

On his return to Williamsburgh, Va., Lord Dunmore, having 
obtained the action of the House of Burgesses creating the District 
of West Augusta as an appendage of old Augusta County, issued a 
writ, tested in the name of his British Majesty, for a new com- 
mission of the peace, embracing, with the names of the old justices 
of the parent county, the names of such of the Virginia adherents 
in the Monongahela valley as were regarded as proper persons to 
serve as Virginia magistrates for the new district. Old Augusta 
County, Virginia, was a large county across the mountains from us 
in the Shenandoah Valley, with its county seat at Staunton; the new 
District of West Augusta embraced all the settled country west of 
the mountains down to Middle Island Run, emptying into the Ohio 
above the Little Kanawha, and northward including the present 
Pennsylvania counties of Westmoreland, Allegheny, part of Beaver, 
and all of Washington, Fayette and Greene. 

The first sessions of the County Court, held by these last 
named Justices or some of them, was held at Fort Dunmore, on 
February 21, 1775; and from this date there were, west of the 
Alleghanies, not only two different sets of magistrates, with their 
subordinate officers, constables, assessors, and organized companies 
of militia, over the same people in the Monongahela valley, but 
within a few miles of each other had been established two different 


courts regularly (or irregularly) administering justice under the 
laws of two different governments. 

These conditions, with these Virginia Courts exercising judicial 
powers in the same territory with the courts of Pennsylvania, con- 
tinued until August 28, 1780, after which no Virginia court was ever 

1 8 Washington County Historical Society. 

held within the limits of Pennsylvania, the general assembly of 
Pennsylvania having ratified on September 23, 1780, the Baltimore 
agreement as to where the boundary lines between the two states 
should be run, as they were finally run and marked on the grouna 
in 1784 and 1786. 

As the Virginia adherents were no doubt largely in the 
majority, the Westmoreland County Court seems to have done 
much the smaller amount of business than did the Virginia courts, 
during the concurrent existence of both; indeed, there was a period 
of two years, from April Term 1776 to April Term 1778, during 
which there were no sessions at all of the Court of Common Pleas 
for Westmoreland County, while the Virginia courts were in 
session regularly. Hereafter our attention will be confined to the 
Virginia courts, and chiefly to the Court for the District of West 

The new justices embraced in the commission of the peace 
for the District of West Augusta, as held at the first day's session 
of that court on February 21, 1775, were, in the order in which 
their names were given, as follows: George Croghan, the deputy 
Indian agent at Pittsburgh; John Campbell, of Pittsburgh, or near 
thereto, owning a mill-seat at the mouth of Campbell's Run (so 
Imown to this day) just below the railroad station at Carnegie; 
John Connolly of Pittsburgh, the principal representative of Lord 
Dunmore in this country; Edward Ward, who had surrendered to 
the French and Indians the Virginia fort building at the Forks of 
the Ohio on April 17, 1754; Thomas Smallman, of Pittsburgh; 
Dorsey Pentecost, lately removed from the Forks of the Youghio- 
gheny to the East Branch of Chartiers Creek; John Gibson, of 
Pittsburgh, bi other of George Gibson who was afterward the father 
of Chief Justice Gibson of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania; 
Captain William Crawford, afterwards burned at the stake by the 
Indians at Sandusky, Ohio, in 1782; John Stephenson, one of the 
half-brothers of Crawford; John McCoUoch, of now West Liberty, 
Ohio County, Virginia, the father of Major Sam. McColloch, who made 
the famous leap on horseback from the Wheeling hill; John Canon 
who laid out the town of Canonsburg; George Vallandigham, of the 
Noblestown neighborhood, the grandfather of the notorious Clement 
L. Vallandigham of Ohio; Silas Hedge and David Shepherd, both 
of what is now Elm Grove in Ohio County, Virginia, near Wheeling; 
and William Goe, from what is now Fayette County, north of 
Brownsville, an ancestor of the Bateman Goe family of Pittsburgh. 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 19 

The records of all these Virginia Courts, beginning with those 
of the County Court for the District of West Augusta, held at 
first in Fort Pitt, built by General Stanwix in 1759^ nearly on the 
site of old Fort Duquesne at the Point in the City of Pittsburgh, 
baptized by Dr. Connolly Fort Dunmore, have lately been published 
in the Annals of the Carnegie Museum, with explanatory intro- 
ductions. These records are full of authentic history relating to 
our early pioneers, and from the records of the old court first 
established at Fort Dunmore, a very few notes shall here be made. 

Its first day's business was transacted on February 21, 1775, 
two months before the preliminary Revolutionary skirmishes at 
Lexington and Concord. On that date, viewers were appointed to 
view a proposed road from the road from Thomas Gist's (Mt. 
Brad dock, beyond Uniontown) to Fort Dunmore, thence to Paul 
Froman's (on the East Branch of Chartiers Creek), by way of 
James Devore's Ferry (now Monongahela City). The same day, 
William Elliott, a Pennsylvania adherent, living at or near Pitts- 
burgh, having been arrested "for disturbing the minds of his 
Majesties Good people of this County, by demanding in an arbitrary 
and Illegal Manner of sundry Persons what Personal Estate they 
are possessed of, that the same may be tax'd according to the 
Laws of Pennsylvania," on hearing it was ordered that he be com- 
mitted to jail, until he enter into bail in 100 pounds for his good 
behavior for one month. This is but one of many like entries of 
proceedings in this court against officers exercising powers under 
the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. 

On the second day's session, to-wit, February 22, 1775, John 
Canon (of Canonsburg) "one of the Gent in the Commission of the 
peace, took the Usual Oaths to his Majesties person and Govmnt, 
Subscribed the Abjuration Oath and Test, and then took the 
Oath of a justice of the peace, and of Justice of the County Court 
in Chancery, and of J. of Oyer and Terminer." The same day 
viewers were appointed, among whom were Henry Taylor, the 
first presiding judge of Washington County, and Van Swearingen, 
the first sheriff, to view a proposed road from Provldenca Miounce's 
Mill (east of the Monongahela), by Ausberger's Ferry, "and from 
thence to Catfish Camp." Wendle Ourey, Robert Hannah, James 
Caveat and James Smith, all Pennsylvania officials, were brought 
up and held to ball in large recognizances, for their good behavior 
and their desisting from acting as officials in the "Colony of 
Virginia by any authority from the Province of Pennsylvania." 
And on the same day the following order was entered: 

2d Washington County Historical Society. 

"Ord. that the Sheriff Imploy a Workman to build a Ducking 
Stool at the Confluence of the Ohio with the Monongahela, and 
that the person Imployed bring in his Charge at the Laying of 
the Levy." 

At a session on May 17, 1775, viewers were appointed, among 
whom were Abraham and William Teagarden at the mouth of Ten 
Mile Creek, and Rezin Virgin, near Washington, to view a road 
"from the foot of Laurel Hill by Wm. Teagarden's Ferry (Mills- 
boro), to the Mouth of Wheeling." On September 27, 1775, this 
road was ordered to be established, overseers appointed, and the 
"tithables" within five miles on each side ordered to work thereon. 

Where was this old Virginia court held? It appears that in 
1772, or 1773 Captain Charles Edmondstone, commanding the King's 
forces at Fort Pitt, then to be demolished, had sold the fort to 
Alexander Ross and William Thompson; and that in 1774, Dr. 
Connolly had taken possession of what was left of it and called 
it Fort Dunmore. Alexander Ross had erected several houses out 
of part of the ruins, in some one of which, possibly, the court 
referred to was held: 11. Olden Time, 95. But the fort was not 
wholly unused; for, on February 22, 1775, the second day's session 
of the court, it was ordered "that the sheriff make use of the Room 
in the Fort now used as a guard room as a Goal for this part of the 
County, and also that John Campbell and Dorsey Pentecost, Gent., 
with the ShfF. lay oft Prison Bounds for the same. Including the 
Ally of the fort and two rods wide to the town." 

On September 19, 177?, the quarters for the court must have 
been changed, for on that day it was ordered that "the Sheriff 
contract with a workman to repair this house ag'st to-morrow, with 
a barr & seat for the Clk & Justices." Then, on September 23, 
1775, it was. 

"Ord. Thos. Smallman, John Cannon, John Gibson, or any 2 
of them, to provide a House at the Pub Expense for the use of 
Holding the Court, and that the Sheriff Contract with Workmen to 
put the same in repair ag't the 3d Tuesday in Jan'y next. 

"Ord that the sheriff, with the Consent of Thos. Smallman, 
John Canon, and John Gibson, or any 2 of them, Contract for a 
house for Safe keeping of his prisoners, and make a return of the 
whole to the next Court, at the County Expence." 

The court was evidently in an unsettled condition with respect 
to public buildings at Pittsburgh, for reasons now unknown; at 
all events, on July 4, 1776, the summer following, were the Declara- 
tion of Independence and the War of the Revolution, and on August 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 21 

20, 1776, "at a Court held at Pittsburgh," the following order was 
entered : 

"David Shepherd (Elm Grove) and John Canon (Canonsburg), 
Gent, are appointed to Contract with some person or persons to 
buiid a house, 24 by 14, with a petition in the middle, to be Used 
for a Goal at Catfish Camp Augusta Town." Here the words "Cat- 
fish Camp'' were erased and the words "Augusta Town" substituted 
with the same ink. And at the close of the day's proceedings this 
entry was made: "Ord that the Court be adjourned until the Third 
Tuesday In September next to Catfish Camp Augusta Town." But 
observe that here again, in the original record the words "Catfish 
Camp" were erased and the words "Augusta Town" substituted for 

Where was this "Catfish Camp," and where "Augusta Town?" 
This query will be answered hereafter. But, observe that when 
these orders were entered the County Court for the District of 
West Augusta, Virginia, that made them was sitting at Pittsburgh, 
now no longer called Fort Dunmore, for the American Revolution 
was begun, and Dunmore was the name of the late English governor 
of the late Crown Colony of Virginia, now a State of the Federal 
Union, and on June 8, 1775, aft«r the fights at Lexington and Con- 
cord, he had followed his family on board the "Fowey," a British 
Man of War in the Chesapeake, and thereafter was an alien enemy 
of his late subjects. 

The next records of the proceedings of this ancient Court 
begin: "At a Court at Augusta Town for the district of West 
Augusta [September] the 17th, 1776, Pres't Edward Ward, Dorsey 
Pentecost, John Cannon, David Shepherd," followed by three 
entries only: 

"Pat McElroy, deputy Sheriff, protested against the Insuff . 
of the Goal, & on his Motion Ord to be certified. 

"Ord. the Sheriff Summon 24 Freeholders to serve as a Grand 
Jury of this Court in November next. 

"Ord that the Court be adjourned until to-Morrow Morning 6 


As noted before, this Edward Ward, the presiding Judge who 
signed his name to the record of the first days session of this 
court at Augusta Town, was the Ensign Edward Ward who on 
April 17, 1754, surrendered the fort then building at the Forks of 
Ohio to the French and Indians who completed it and called it 
Fort Duquesne; and at the date of this entry Edward Ward 

22 Washington County Historical Society. 

lived at Pittsburgh; Colonel Dorsey Pentecost had lately moved 
from the Forks of the Youghiogheny to the East Branch of 
Chartiers Creek in our present North Strabane Township; Colonel 
John Canon for three or four years had lived where he afterwards 
laid out his town of Canonsburg; and Colonel David Shephierd for 
five or six years had lived at Elm Grove, a few miles this side of 

It is indicated by one of the last orders entered, quoted above, 
that the "Goal" which on August 20, 1776, less than a month before. 
Shepherd and Canon had been ordered to have erected, was not 
yet completed so as to safely hold the prisoners committed to it, 
or that, although the jail which, as usual at the time, occupied the 
first floor of the 24 by 14 feet building, with a "petition" in the 
middle, might have been sufllcient for its intended use, yet the 
room in the second story where the court was held, with the 
stairway approach on the outside, was not yet ready for business; 
for, after ordering a venire for a grand jury for the next November 
term, the court adjourned until the next morning at 6 o'clock! 
Six o'clock in the morning would be an early hour in these days 
for the holding of court. 

The record of the next day's business shows that "At a Court 
Continued and held at Augusta Town, for the District of West 
Augusta, September the 18th, 1776;" present the same "Gentlemen 
Justices" as on the day preceding; but to their number was added 
"John McColloch, Gent," who "took the Oath appointed by Order 
of Convention as a Justice." This John McColloch resided at 
what is now West Liberty, Ohio County, West Virginia, and was 
the father of John McColloch and Major Sam. McColloch, the 
latter mentioned before in respect of his famous horse-back leap 
over Wheeling Hill. 

Among other business transacted was a recommendation of 
Richard Yeates and others as proper persons for the appointment oi 
coroners; and an order appointing Dorsey Pentecost Clerk of the 
County Court, and an order upon John Madison, Jr., the then 
deputy Clerk, to turn over the records of the court then in his 
custody on October 25th next. 

There were no sessions of the court in October, 1776, doubt- 
less because of new legislation anticipated, but two brief sessions 
were held at "Augusta Town" on November 19 and 20, 1776, at 
which but little business was done, for an important change had 
occurred in jurisdictional conditions. 

Old CouRT-HousE for West Augusta, Virginia. 23 

Ohio, Yohogania and Monongalia Counties^ 

It will be remembered that the District of West Augusta, as 
established by Virginia in 1774-5, was but an annex to old Augusta 
County created in 1745, and embraced the lands of Pennsylvania 
west of the Laurel Hill range of the AUeghanies and all the lands 
south of the Kiskeminitas, east of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, 
and extended southward to Middle Island Creek, emptying into the 
Ohio at or near the present St. Marys, Pleasants County, West 
Virginia. But the general assembly of Virginia, at its sessions in 
October, 1776, cut up the District of West Augusta into three new 
Virginia counties, Ohio, Tohogania, and Monongalia. 

These were .indeed immense counties. They all came together, 
either at Chartiers Creek, directly west of Washington, or on the 
ridge beyond the creek. Standing where is placed the distributing 
reservoir of the Citizens Water Company, in sight of the Borough 
of Washington, Ohio County lay from the Chartiers or the ridge 
beyond it to the west and southwest, extending from the mouth 
of Cross Creek to the mouth of Middle Island Creek. Tohogania 
County lay to the northeast, and extended from the mouth of Cross 
Creek to the mouth of Beaver, thence up the Ohio to Pittsburgh, up 
the Allegheny to the mouth of the Kiskeminitas, thence across to 
the Alleghany mountains, and southwest with the mountains to 
about where the Cumberland Road crossed, thence by the route of 
that road, substantially, to Chartiers Creek or to the ridge beyond 
it, and thence by the head lands of the streams to the mouth of 
Cross Creek. To the southeast lay Monongalia County, extending 
from the dividing ridge between the waters which flow eastward 
into the Monongahela and those which flow westward into the 
Ohio, down to Middle Island Creek, thence southeast to the 
headwaters of the Greenbrier River, thence with the Alleghany 
Mountains to line of Yohogania. These lines will give an idea of 
the positions of those counties in a general way. For more exact 
details see Crumrine's History of Washington County, 183. 

Under the provisions of the organic act, an election was to 
be held by the landholders of the respective counties on December 
8, 1776, to determine at what places the respective courts of 
justice were to be held. The day of this election fell on Sunday, 
which was unsatisfactory to our Scotch-Irish pioneers, and 
complications occurred, but they resulted in establishing the seat 
of justice for Ohio County at Black's Cabin on Short Creek, 
about twelve miles northeast from the present Wheeling; for 
Tohogania County at the plantation of Andrew Heath on the west 



Washington County Historical Society. 

side of the Monongahela, in sight of old Elizabeth Town and a mile 
or so from West Elizabeth and near the boundary line between 
our Washington and Allegheny counties; whilst that for Monongalia 
County was fixed for the plantation of Theophilus Phillips, east of 
the Monongahela River, and about two miles above the mouth of 
George's Creek, in the present Fayette County. 

County Court for Yohogania County. 

The District of West Augusta having been superseded by the 
three new Virginia counties of Ohio, Yohogania and Monongalia, 
of course the County Court for that district was superseded alsb, 
Augusta Town, where it was held, falling into Yohogania County. 

The first day's session of the Yohogania Court was held on 
December 23, 1776, the place not being noted in the record. The 
record begins: 

"Yohogania County, Dec. 23, 1776. 

*'ln consequence of an Act of the General Assembly of Vir- 
ginia putting off all that part of the District of West Augusta 
Northward of the following bounds or lines, (viz) : 

"Beginning at the mouth of Cross Creek, running up the several 
courses thereof to the head; Thence South-Easterly to the nearest 
part of the dividing ridge Between the Ohio and Monongahela 
Rivers; Thence along the said Dividing Ridge to the head of Ten 
Mile Creek; Thence east to the road leading from Catfish 
camp to Redstone Old Fort; thence with the said road to the 
Monongahela River; thence across the said River to the said Fort; 
Thence along Dunlap's old Road to Braddock's Road; and with said 
road to the meridian of Potowmac River. 

"And a Commisison of the Peace and a Commission of Oyer 
and Terminer, Directed to 


John Campbell, 
Dorsey Pentecost 
John Stephenson, 
William Goe, 
John McDowell, 
George McCormick, 
William Harrison. 
Thomas Freeman, 
Oliver Miller, 
Andrew Swearingen, 

Edward Vv'ard, 
John Gibson, 
John Cannon, 
John Neaville 
Richard Yeates 
Philip Ross, 
Samuel Nfwell, 
John DeCompt, 
Benjamin Frye, 
Jacob Haymaker, 

Thomas Smallman, 
William Crawford, 
George Vallandingham, 
Isaac Cox, 
John McDaniel, 
Benjamin Kirkindall, 
Thomas Brown, 
Joshua Wright, 
Matthew Richie, 
Benjamin Harrison, 

and Zachariah Connell;" thirty-one in all. 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 25 

All these justices of the peace lived within the limits of 
Yohogania County, and nearly all can at this day be identified by 
the writer. All could have sat as justices of the county court, but 
only a few appeared this first day to be sworn in, to-wit: 

Richard Yeates, George McCormick, Benjamin Kirkindall, 

Samuel Newell, William Goe, Isaac Cox, 

Thomas Freeman, Joshua Wright, Oliver Miller, 

Benjamin Frye, Matthew Richie, Andrew Swearingen, 

John Cannon, Dorsey Pentecost. 

Dorsey Pentecost was appointed the Clerk of the Court, and 
ordered to take charge of the records. The court then demanded 
the "Records and Papers from John Madison, Jr., Deputy Clerk 
of East Augusta, in whose custody they are, Which he Peremptorily 
refused, Notwithstanding he had seen an Act of assembly directing 
him so to do." Subsequently the same day process was ordered 
to enforce compliance with the demand. 

An interesting entry must be copied here: 

"Edward Ward, gentleman, came into court and prayed that 
the court would receive his reasons for refusing to act as Sheriff 
of this county, which was granted and ^as as follows: — That he 
cannot think of acting as Sheriff, or appointing any under Sheriffs 
until the line between the States of Virginia and Pennsylvania are 
fixed or limited, for on the North Eastern bounds of this County 
[Westmoreland County] there is still a Door open for Dispute and 
Contintion, which has been heretofore the cause of Disturbing the 
Peace of the People Settled and Claiming alternately The Jurisdic- 
tion of each Government; and before he can think of acting or any 
Person under him, he proposes praying the General Assembly to 
have a Temporary line fixed between them, or the limits of Penn- 
sylvania run, or the Government of Virginia Peremptorily running 
the same, until which is done he cannot think of acting in any 
state or Government to Infringe on the reserved rights of his 
fellow subjects; he further assures that 'when Government has 
this done, he is ready to act with Cheerfulness, and if this Cannot 
be done he begs that the Court will Recommend some other gentle- 
man to his Excellency to serve as sheriff, — and hopes the Court 
will acquiesce in Prompting and having the above bounds ascer- 
tained; and further offers to qualify into the Commission of the 

Edward Ward, the ensign who surrendered to the French and 
Indians in 1754 the fort he was building at the mouth of the 
Monongahela, was unwilling to assume the greater personal respon- 

26 Washington County Historical Society. 

sibility of the duties of a sheriff, in the unsettled conditions as to 
the actual boundary line between Pennsylvania and Virginia, but 
was willing to accept the responsibilities of a Virginia judge upon 
the bench, and, his reasons being considered as sufficient, he was 
relieved from his duties of the Sheriff's office, and was sworn in 
as one of the "gentlemen justices" of the new County of Yohogania, 
Virginia, took his seat as the presiding judge, and signed his name 
as such to the record of each day's proceedings so long as the 
court continued. 

Joshua Wright, the great-grandfather of Joshua Wright, late of 
Washington, Pennsylvania, was then recommended to his Execel-. 
lency, Patrick Henry, the Governor of Virginia, for appointment as 
sheriff, but the appointment he subsequently refused; and among 
other matters transacted in the first day's business of the new 
county was the recommendation to the governor of Dorsey Pente- 
cost, the great-grandfather of T. M. Pentecost, the present sheriff 
of Washington County, Pennsylvania, as County Lieutenant of 
the "Melitia" of Yohogania County; of John Canon, the founder 
of Canonsburg as "Colonel of said Melitla," Isaac Cox as Lieutenant 
Colonel, and Henry Taylor, the great-grandfather of J. Frank 
Taylor, one of the present judges of our County of Washington, 
as "Major of said Melitia." 

It will have been noted that when this court removed from 
Fort Dunmore at Pittsburgh, to Augusta Town, wherever that was, 
and this will be discussed hereafter, it was still the County Court 
for the District of West Augusta, Virginia; and that in pursuance 
of the act of the Virginia Assembly of October, 1776, creating out 
of that District the three new counties of Ohio, Yohogania and 
Monongahela, an election by the people of each county was held 
on December 8, 1776, to determine the places for holding the 
county courts, and that on that day the election by the people of 
Yohogania County was held at the house of Andrew Heath, which 
was west of the Monongahela River near the line between Wash- 
ington and Allegheny counties, and that that election determined 
the plantation of Andrew Heath as the place of holding the county 
court. The proceedings of the first term of that court, held on 
December 23rd, fifteen days after that election, must have been 
held at Augusta Town, no change to the new county seat having 
yet been made; this, for the reason no doubt that no official ratifi- 
cation of the election had as yet been received from the State 
Government at Williamsburg. Moreover, there was another reason 
in the fact that the present county seat was altogether unsatis- 

Old Court- House for West Augusta, Virginia. 27 

factory, which appears in an order entered on the record of this first 
day's session of the court for the new county, as follows: 

"Ordered that the Clerk forward a letter to his Excellency & 
Council, notifying the general dissatisfaction of the people of this 
County against the late election being held on the Sabath Day, 
the short notice of the said election, and of the Inconveniency of 
the Bounds Circumscribing the said County." 

Evidently, the selection of the plantation of Andrew Heath 
on the Monongahela as the county seat, was not acceptable to 
the majority of the "gentlemen justices," but whether from relig- 
ious scruples as to an election held on the "Sabath Day," or from 
a disappointment on the part of Dorsey Pentecost or John Canon, 
or others, as to the place selected, cannot now be determined; at 
all events, before the selection of the county seat was finally 
acquiesced in, many monthly sessions of the court were held at 
Augusta Town, and much business of an important and varied 
nature, interesting to us chiefly on account of the political condi- 
tions then existing, was transacted. 

This varied business cannot now be noted in detail, but it is 
felt to be necessary to give the names of some of the early settlers 
appearing upon these records, other than those already mentioned. 
We find the names of: . 

Brice Virgin; William Gaston; John Johnston; Andrew Dye; 
William Harrison; \James Innis, Zachariah Connell (the founder of 
Connellsville) ; iWilliam Lee; John Maloney (McLoney?) Samson 
Beavers; Joseph RossT; Jacob Lamb (Pigeon Creek); James 
Johnston (fined for swearing nine profane oaths) ; Isaac Leet; and 
Captain Reason Virgin, living a mile or two southwest of Wash- 
ington, Pennsylvania. 

After December 23, 1776, the court omitted some of the regular 
sessions, probably because whether it should be removed to the 
house of Andrew Heath was not yet settled, and next met on April 
28, 1777, when after a short session it adjourned to meet the next 
morning at 7 o'clock, and then met accordingly! On the next day 
it met at 8 o'clock, on which day the term ended. 

The next term began on May 26, 1777, Isaac Cox presiding 
justice, and after an important session on May 27, 1777, at which 
districts were laid oft for the assessment and collection of taxes, 
court was adjourned to the next day, when the term ended. 

The next term began on June 25, 1777, and the first entry upon 
the records was the following: 

28 Washington County Historical Society. 

"Ordered — that the sheriff cause to be Erected a pair of 
Stocks, and a Whiping post in the Court-House yard by next 
Court." And after the appointment of Richard Yeates and Isaac 
Leet to meet persons appointed from the other counties, to adjust 
the boundary lines between Yohogania and Ohio and Yohogania 
and Monongalia counties, the court adjourned to the next "Court in 

This "Court in Course" was held on August 25, 1777, and the 
only order entered was the following: 

"Ordered: That for Conveniencey of Seting and Expediting 
Business, That the Court be adjourned to the House now occupied 
by Andrew Heath." The Court then adjourned, Isaac Cox presiding. 
On the same day, according to the record, "At the House of Andrew 
Heath, Court met according to adjournment," John Campbell pre- 

Had the Court hitherto been held at Augusta Town? Most 
likely. For, from the session held on December 23, 1776, no juries 
had been summoned, and no trials held, and the only business 
transacted related to the public officials, affairs of the militia, 
county lines, making up lists of tithables, etc., and some matters of 
criminal jurisdiction. Most probably the order made on August 
25th, adjourning to the house of Andrew Heath, was made at 
Andrew Heath's house, as though it had been made at Augusta 
Town, merely to show a record for the change. No court-house 
had yet been erected on the Heath plantation, as soon i^terward 
there was, and if the stocks and whipping poet ordered on June 
25th had been erected at the court-house at Augusta Town, It 
would not have been difficult to remove them to the new county 
seat. And moreover, if the court had met at Augusta Town on 
August 25th, and there made the order to adjourn to the house of 
Andrew Heath, it would not have been an impossibility for the 
entire court to meet the next day on the Monongahela River. In 
the olden time it was a common thing for judges and lawyers (and 
why not parties?) to travel in one day thirty or forty miles to 
appear in court in another county the next day. 

The court on August 25th, 1777, was adjourned "until to-morrow 
morning at 6 o'clock!" The next day, August 26th, business was 
begun in earnest, and among other important matters, certain 
gentlemen were appointed to make a tour of the different districts 
of the very large county of Yohogania to "Tender the Oath of 
Allegiance and Fidelity to the Commonwealth of Virginia to all 
free Male Inhabitants; agreeable to an Act of Assembly entitled an 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 29 

act to oblige all free Male Inhabitants, above a certain age, to give 
assurance of allegiance to this State, and for other purposes Therein 
Mentioned:" See 9 Henning's Statutes, 281. These gentlemen were 
Matthew Ritchie (the ancestor of the A. S. Ritchie family of Wash- 
ington); Samuel Newell; John McDaniel; Andrew Swearingen; 
Isaac Cox; Benjamin Kuykendall; William Goe; Thomas Freeman; 
Zachariah Connell; Benjamin FYye; Richard Yeates; and John 
McDowell. And on this day was made the following order: 

"Ordered: That Isaac Cox, Oliver Miller and Benjamin Kirk- 
endall, be appointed, or any two of them, to Contract with proper 
person or persons, to build a Goal and court house in the following 
manner, and at the following place, Vizt: The Goal and Court 
House are to be Included in one whole and Intire Building, of sound 
round Oak, to go Twenty four feet Long and Sixteen feet wide; 
two Story high; The lower Story to be eight feet high, Petitioned 
in the Middle; with Squeared hewed Logs with Locks, and bears 
(bars) to the door and Windows, according to law, which shall be 
the Goal. The upper story to be five feet high in the Sides, with a 
good Cabbin Roof, with Convenient seats for the Court & Bar, 
and* a Clark's Table, to remain in one room, with a pair of stairs 
on the outside to Assend up to said Room, which shall be the place 
for holding Court; with two floors to be laid with strong hewed 
logs; the whole to be Compleat and finished in one month from 
the date hereof. The said Building to be Erected on the planta- 
tion of Andrew Heath at Such Convenient place as the said Isaac 
Cox, Oliver Miller and Benjamin Kirkendall, Gentlemen, or any 
two of them shall think Proper." 

The place where this court-house was erected has lately been 
well identified for the writer by Mr. R. T. Wiley of the Elizabeth 
Herald, Elizabeth, Pa., and by Mr. Samuel W. Stewart, of Highland 
Station, E. E., Pittsburgh, as upon the farm now of George Gilmore, 
Jefterson Township, Allegheny County, Pa., a short quarter of a 
mile back from the west side of the Monongahela Ri^er, on the 
brow of the first terrace back of the bottom lands; about one 
mile from the boundary line of West Elizabeth, in plain view of 
East Elizabeth and Lock No. 3; about one hundred yards south of 
Mr. Gilmore's house, and near the upper corner of what is known 
as Lobb*s old graveyard. The title to the land upon which it stood 
can be traced back from George Gilmore through his father, Ben- 
jamin Gilmore, McNutt heirs, Jacob Guest, John Pennell, and 
Richard Heath, to Captain Henry Heath, one of whose five sons 
was Andrew Heath, occupying the land, though not under a known 

30 Washington County Historical Society. 

record title. Mr. Samuel J. Heath, a lineal descendant of Andrew 
Heath, living on another part of the Heath plantation, places the 
court-house, not on the Gilmore farm, but at the same corner of 
the old Lobb graveyard, and nearer thereto. 

Thus we see that the court-house of Yohogania County on the 
Andrew Heath farm was of the same length of that erected at 
Augusta Town for the District of West Augusta, and two feet 
wider. The order for the erection of the court-house at Augusta 
Town does not specify that there should be a court-room above 
the jail, but this must be taken as implied, for all the first court- 
houses erected in the wilderness were of this construction, having 
the jail on the first floor, with a "petition" in the milddle, and the 
court room on the second floor, with an outside stairway by which 
to "assend" to it. 

On October 30, 1777, the cold weather approaching, an order 
was made for a sufficient stone chimney to be carried up in the 
middle of the new court-house building on the Andrew Heath farm, 
with three fire places, one in each room of the jail and one in 
the court room, which was to be chunked and plastered, with a 
window in each "glebe" (gable?) "and four pains of Glass of 
ten Inches by eight, and the Goal rooms to be plastered." 

This court also had its whipping post and stocks, so that it 
was unnecessary that these instrumentalities should be removed 
from the court-house yard at Augusta Town. For on June 26, 1780, 
a short time before all these Virginia Courts ceased finally to 
exercise jurisdiction within the limits of Pennsylvania, the 
boundary line between Pennsylvania and Virginia having been 
finally established though not yet marked out on the ground, an 
order was made and entered as follows: 

"Ordered, that Paul Mathews be allowed Two thousand dollars 
for erecting a Whipping Post, stocks and Pillory. 

"Gentlemen deposited: 

"William Goe, One hundred and fifty Dollars. 

"Oliver Miller, Do. Do. 

'Joseph Becket, One hundred. 

'Dorsey Pentecost, One hundred. 

'Samuel Newell, One hundred, 
"to be deducted out of the money when levied by the SherifC." 

This allowance and these contributions to pay it were not 
so extravagent, for at this time the Continental currency was so 
much depreciated that eighty dollars in paper were worth but one 
Spanish dollar in silver, so that the allowance for the service was 




Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 31 

but twenty-five dollars, and Dorsey Pentecost's large advance was 
but one dollar and a quarter, although Justices Goe and Miller 
were able to contribute each one dollar, eighty-seven and one-half 
cents: See III. Adams' Writings of Albert Gallatin, 261. 

From the foregoing we may be safely assured that the County 
Court for the District of West Augusta, Virginia, had its court- 
house from September 17, 1776, to December 23, 1776, at Augusta 
Town, and that when the County of Yohogania was formed, the 
court-house of that county was at the same Augusta Town from 
December 23, 1776, to August 25, 1777. 

Where was this Augusta Town, where were held these Vir- 
ginia County Courts for almost one full year in 1776-1777? 

County Court for Ohio County. 

Before this question is answered, a few words about the 
county court for Ohio County, Virginia. 

The records of the County Court for Ohio County, Virginia, 
have also been published in full, from their beginning on January 
6, 1777, to September 4, 1780, by which time the last Virginia Court 
for Yohogania County had been held. The facts disclosed by these 
records of the Ohio County Court are intensely interesting, for, 
during the period referred to, the people of that county, living 
along the Ohio River, were on the frontier line between our 
pioneer settlements and savagery beyond that river. 

It appears from these records, that, although the act of 
assembly of Virginia of October, 1776, had directed that the land- 
holders of all three of the new counties should hold an election 
on the "8th day of December next" (which was Sunday) to choose 
the place of holding the courts for their respective counties, — 
the electors of Ohio County to meet at the house of Ezekiel Dewit 
on Buffalo Creek, — yet the election for that county was not held 
until December 27, 1776, — why, is not now known, and that at that 
election, "a Majority determined in favour of a place known 
by the name of Black's Cabbin, on the waters of Short Creek, 
to be the place of holding Courts in future." 

Black's Cabin was where the town of West Liberty now 
stands, about eleven or twelve miles northeast of Wheeling, West 
Virginia, about eight miles northwest of West Alexander, Wash- 
ington County, Pennsylvania, and perhaps about twenty miles 
west of Washington, Pennsylvania. Here the county court was 

32 Washington County Historical Society. 

held until 1797, when it was removed to Wheeling, where it con- 
tinues to this day. 

The first day's session was on January 6, 1777, when David 
Shepherd (of the present Elm Grove), Silas Hedge, William Scott, 
James Caldwell, Zachariah Sprigg, Thomas Wallef and Daniel Mc- 
Clain were sworn as justices, and "being duly qualified took their 
seats on the Bentch accordingly." John McColloch, residing near 
Black's Cabin, and the father of John McColloch and Samuel Mc- 
Colloch, both celebrated in Indian warfare, was made the sheriff, 
and James McMechen the Clerk of the County Court. David 
Shepherd was recommended to Patrick Henry, the governor, as 
countyj lieutenant, Silas Hedge as colonel, David McClure as 
lieutenant colonel, and Samuel McColloch as major of the militia. 

These officers of the militia, with the corresponding officers 
from the other two counties, together with the captains of com- 
panies all met at Catfish Camp on January 28, 1777, in a council 
of war called by Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, to prepare 
for the threatened attack to be made upon the settlements by the 
Indians in the coming spring. The minutes of this council of war 
are published in Crumrine's History of Washington County, p. 185. 
Among other things done at this council of war, it was: 

"Resolved, For the Purpose of Repairing Guns, Making Tomme- 
hocks. Sculping Knives, &c., that proper persons ought to be Em- 
ployed in each County at the Public Expense, and that Thomas 
and William Parkeson be appointed in the County of Yohogania, 
and that they Immediately Open Shop at their house on the 
Monongahela River for the above purpose, and that they make with 
all possible Expedition all the Rifle Guns they can, and a Suffi- 
cient number of Tommehacks, Sculping knives, &c., and that 
the County Lieut. Reseeve them, or Direct the Distribution thereof." 

At the next day's session of the court, January 7, 1777, it was 
ordered as follows: 

"Forasmuch as the tract of land agreed upon for holding 
courts at in future doth of right appertain unto Abraham Van- 
metre, of Opechan Creek in the County of Bartley (Berkley?), 
order'd, therefore, that Zacharia Sprigg, Silas Hedge, Esq., be 
appointed to Contract & Covenant with sd Vanmetre for not less 
than Two acres of sd Tract including the Cabbin and Spring, — In 
behalf of this County, for the purpose of erecting & Building 
thereon a Court house. Prison and other necessary public Buildings, 
for any sum not exceeding Twenty pounds, & Report make of their 
proceedings therein as soon as may be, to this Court. 


Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 33 

The court, with Black's Cabin as a court-house, proceeded to 
business, much of it relative to military affairs, and the care of the 
families of soldiers in the wars; but on April 8, 1777, 

"The Court taking into Consideration the Expediency of having 
a Court house erected, ordered that a house for that purpose be 
constructed of the following Dimentions and Conveniences, viz: 

"A Dimond Cornered house of Dimentions Twenty Two by 
eighteen feet in the clear; one Story & one half high; a floor above 
& below of hewed or sawn plank; Ten joice in the upper floor, nine 
or ten feet high; in the Lower Story a Court's Bentch & Clark's 
Table; Two windows of eight lights each eight by ten inches; a 
pair of stairs & Cabbin Roof; a plain Door & hinges of Iron; 
likewise plain window shutters, with Iron hinges. 

"A jail Twenty by sixteen feet on the outside, the Loggs of the 
walls to be round & Close laid; the loft floor & partition to be of 
loggs squarid to eight inches thick; Two rounds of Loggs above 
the Loft; Cabbin Roof'd; Doors & windows agreeable; A Stone 
Chimney with Iron grates, the doors done with nails; Lock Suffi- 
cient; the Loft & Floor to have each a Large Summer Supporting 
them in the middle. 

"& for the purpose of having the aforementioned Buildings 
Completed as soon as possible, agreeable to the aforesaid Dimen- 
tions, ordered that Jno. McCoUoch, high sheriff, be ordered to put 
the same up at public auction to the lowest undertaker." 

Thus was provision made for a "Court-house & Groal" for 
the future, in Ohio County. 

Afterward, although the law required monthly terms, no court 
was held until June 2, 1777, and the next term after that date 
was held on April 6, 1778, when a term was held lasting for three 
days. These were times of trouble, and inter armes leges silent. 
The new court-house and jail had not yet been erected, for at the 
session on June 1, 1778, it was "ordered that the court be adjourned 
till to-morrow at eight of the clock at the house of Andrew 
Ramsey;" and on the next day it was 

"Ordered that the sheriff apply to Mr. Richard Yeates for 
premission to make use of the District jail, to Imprison delinquents 
during these difficult times of danger & want of jail at the Court- 
house seat of this County, upon the most Reasonable Terms pos- 

"Ordered that David Sheepherd, sheriff of this County [John 
McCoUoch having died], advertise to the lowest undertaker the 

34 Washington County Historical Society. 


Building of the public Buildings for this County, agreeable to the 
Dimentions therein contained." 

The "District Jail/' for permission to use which application 
was to be made to Richard Yeates, must have meant the jail for the 
District of West Augusta, at Augusta Town, about twenty miles 
away. For the County Court for the District of West Augusta, for 
which the court-house and jail at Augusta Town was erected, had 
ended, and the County Court for Tohogania County was occupying 
them until, on August 25, 1777, that court removed to the plantation 
of Andrew Heath on the Monongahela River, and the District Jail, 
with the court room above it, and the whipping post in the court- 
house yard, remained on the farm of Richard Yeates. And that 
the application to Mr. Yeates for permission to use the old 
District Jail was successful, is evidenced by an entry made by the 
Ohio County Court on November 3, 1778, as follows: 

"Ordered that the sheriff of this County pay Richard Yeates 
Six pounds, it being this County's proportion of the District Goal, 
out of the Money by him collected of the Tithables in this 

Where Was Augusta Town? 

We are now back again to the locality of the old court-house 
and jail for the District of West Augusta. Where was it? 

We have seen that on August 20, 1776, David Shepherd, of the 
present Elm Grove, West Virginia, and John Canon, of the present 
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, two of the "gentlemen justices" of the 
County Court for the District of West Augusta, Virginia, holden 
at Fort Dunmore, in Pittsburg, were appointed to contract for the 
building of a house, 24 by 14 feet, "with a petition in the middle," 
to be used for a jail (with a court-room above it) at "Catfish 
Camp," changed by an erasure to "Augusta Town," and that it 
was ordered that the court be adjourned" until the third Tuesday of 
September next to "Catfish Camp," again changed by an erasure to 
"Augusta Town." And further that on September 17, 1776, and 
thereafter until November 20, 1776, the court for the District of 
West Augusta was held at the same place, and that from the 
organization of the County Court for Yohogania County on Decem- 
ber 23, 1776, until August 25, 1777, that court also was held at 
Augusta Town. 

It has also been seen that on September 18, 1776, the second 
day's session of the court at Augusta Town, Richard Yeates, with 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 35 

quite a number of names of early residents about Washington, 
Pennsylvania, was recommended as a proper person to be appointed 
to the office of coroner; and that thereafter in the history 
of that court, as well as in the history of the County court for 
Ohio County, his name frequently appears, especially in the order 
directing application to be made to him for the use of the Jail for 
the confinement of Ohio County delinquents. 

It is now proposed to establish that Augusta Town, where 
this Virginia court was held from September 17, 1776, to August 
25, 1777, was on land then owned by Richard Teates a little south- 
west of Washington, Pennsylvania, lately known as the Gabby 
farm, and on the spot where shall be erected a granite marker and 
tablet by the Washington County Historical Society. 

Up until lately there has been great uncertainty as to the 
exact location of the court-house in question, and when our society 
undertakes to mark it with a memorial tablet, its position should be 
reasonably well ascertained, if possible. But no trace of that 
public building now appears anywhere, one hundred and twenty- 
nine years having elapsed since its erection in the then wilderness. 
Quite a number of historical writers have attempted to locate it, 
but none of them had the advantage of an examination of the 
printed records of these old Virginia Courts. 

The earliest written account giving a definite location to any 
old Virginia court held near Washington, Pennsylvania, is found 
in Jacob's Life and Times of Patrick Gass, published at Wellsburg 
in 1859, in which it is said: "Virginia had two Court-houses 
south of the Monongahela, and one north, at Redstone, now 
Brownsville. She at one time fixed a seat of Justice at Razortown, 
two miles west of what is now Washington." This was incorrect. 
There never was a Virginia court-house at Redstone, now Brown- 
ville. The Virginia Commissioners appointed to settle and adjust 
the claims of Virginia settlers to lands settled upon by them, 
held some of their sessions at Redstone in 1779-1780, but there 
never was a court of justice held there, although there was a 
Virginia Court held at Fort Dunmore, which was north of the 
Monongahela, during 1775 and part of 1776, as heretofore shown. 
And, as also shown, two courts, one at Augusta Town and one at 
Black's Cabin (now West Liberty), were held south of the Monon- 
gahela, but neither of them was at Razortown. 

Razortown was on the old William Wylie farm, less than two 

36 Washington County Historical Society. 

miles northwest of old Washington, on the Washington and Wells- 
burg Road, and consisted of a black-smith shop, and several dwel- 
lings. There must have been a tavern among the latter, for, 
at the March Term, 1816, of the Court of Quarter Sessions lor 
Washington County, Pennsylvania, a license to sell liquors was 
granted to one Hugh Barr, of "Razertown." That town is now 
another of the few lost towns of Washington County. 

Mr. Jacobs had evidently copied from Albach's Annals of the 
West, published at Pittsburg in 1856, in which it is said, p. 13: 
"Accordingly, Dunmore established three courts, two South of 
the Monongahela, and one at Redstone, all within the limits of 
Pennsylvania," but without designating their localities. 

Both Albach and Jacobs may have relied upon Dr. Joseph 
Smith's "Old Redstone," printed at Philadelphia in 1854, a work 
that was full of historical errors, excusable, however, as it was a 
pioneer on the subject. That work, after referring to the settle- 
ments by Virginians upon lands in Southwestern Pennsylvania, 
prior to the Revolution, says, p. 32: "The land being the property 
of the king, was at the disposal of the governor [Lord Dunmore], 
who also procured a court of Virginia to be extended to the Ohio; 
and in a short time two county courts were held South of 
the Monongahela, and one North of it, at Redstone Old Fort 
(Brownsville); all of them within the territory since ascertained 
to belong to Pennsylvania." And, in his chapter of "Statements 
about the Redstone Presbytery," Dr. Smith says, p. 129: "But | 

the vacancies to which supplies were furnished in 1782 and 1783 I 

(there were none appointed at their first meeting in 1781,) were 
all in the bounds of the present Redstone, except one, the Ohio 
Court-house, a place that stood some miles west of the present 
town of Washington, and that vanished and appears no more in 
the subsequent lists of supplies." See, also, note on p. 318. But. 
observe: The Minutes of the Presbytery of Redstone, published in 
1878, under the editorial supervision of Dr. S. S.Gilson, Rev. Dr. John 
M. Barnett, and Hon. John K. Ewing, show very conclusively, p. 
5, that this "Ohio Court-house" was the court-house of Ohio County, 
Virginia, at Black's Cabin on Short Creek, and near the Ohio 
River. Moreover, after August 28, 1780, no Virginia Court was ever 
held within the present limits of Pennsylvania, and after October 
2, 1781, the courts of Washington County, Pennsylvania, were in 
full jurisdiction and continuous operation until the present day. 
And see note to the Washington County Centennial, 1881, p. 39. 

Dr. Alfred Creigh, in his History of Washington County, pub- 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia . 37 

lished in 1870, was the first to furnish to the public information 
leading to a definite location for the Virginia court-house at Augusta 
Town. On page 137 of his pioneer history of our county, a little 
misled by Dr. Smith's Old Redstone, he says that the court-house 
"of Ohio County was on the farm of William Gabby, two miles 
west of this place [Washington]. Mr. William Gabby assures me 
that the logs of the court-house were used by his father in the 
erection of a kitchen, and that the court-house stood between the 
brick-house (now occupied by his son James) and the barn, near 
the spring." Dr. Creigh, however, did not have the advantage of 
printed records of these old Virginia courts, to inform him that 
the court-house on the Gabby farm was not the court-house of 
Ohio County, Virginia, but the court-house of the County Court 
tor the District of West Augusta, Virginia, then embracing all the 
lands west of the AlUeghany Mountains and east of the Ohio 

We have seen from the records of the old Virginia Court for 
the District of West Augusta, held at Pittsburg, that on August 20, 
1776, an order was made for the building of a jail, including a 
court-room "at Catfish Camp;" that the same day the court was 
adjourned "until the third Tuesday in September next to Catfish 
Camp," and that both orders were changed by erasing "Catfish 
Camp" and substituting therefor "Augusta Town." And we have 
further seen that on September 17, 1776, that court was held at 
Augusta Town. 

Where Was Catfish Camp? 

It has already been noted that in the Atlas Universel by M. 
Robert, published at Paris in 1757, there is a Map of this section 
of Western Pennsylvania as a part of Louisiana, then embracing 
all the lands watered by the Mississippi and its tributaries as 
claimed and then occupied by France. On this map. No. 98 of the 
series, is laid down Pierre Rouge, (or Redstone) Creek; Chartiers 
Creek, so named from Peter Chartiers, a half-breed Indian trader; 
and a small stream entering into Chartiers Creek, well up toward 
the source of the latter, is named upon another old map of that 
period, "Wissameking." This is the stream which fiows from the 
Eiast and around the southwest corner of the present borough of 
Washington. The name Wissameking is one of the Indian names 
in the Delaware tongue for Catfish. The French map referred to 
purports to have been based upon surveys made by Joshua Fry and 

38 Washington County Historical Society. 

Peter Jefferson, of "The most Inhabited Parts of Virginia," pub- 
lished in 1754, which map of Fry and Jefferson was constructed from 
surveys made by Christopher Gist in 1751, as before mentioned. 
Thus we have "Catfish Run" known as such to the world as early 
as 1751. 

On June 19, 1769, eighteen years afterwards, warrants for sur- 
veys were obtained from the Penn land office, for three tracts of 
land, which were surveyed and returned on November .11, 1769, to 
Abraham Hunter, Joseph Hunter and Martha Hunter, respectively, 
each containing over 330 acres, and described as lying on Catfish 
Run, a small tributary of Chartiers Creek. Each tract was a paral- 
lelogram; all being 390 perches long, and those surveyed to Abra- 
ham Hunter and Joseph Hunter being each 144 perches wide, and 
that surveyed to Martha Hunter 145 perches wide. They were 
laid side by side the long way, Abraham Hunter's called Catfish 
Camp, being to the south; Joseph Hunter's, called Grand Cairo, 
adjoining on the north, and Martha Hunter's, called Martha's Bot- 
tom, adjoining the latter on the north. The line made by the short 
ends of each tract when put together ran north 62 degrees west; and 
the south line of the Abraham Hunter, the most southern of them, 
ran south 28 degrees west. The southwestern corner of the Abra- 
ham Hunter was at a hickory which stood near where the road to 
the LeMoyne Crematory leaves Dewey Avenue, in the Fifth 
Ward of the present Washington Borough. 

No information has been obtained of these Hunters, but on 
April 26, 1771, they sold their several tracts to David Hoge, of 
Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. As to David Hoge, who never 
came to Washington County to settle, the following information has 
lately been obtained from Mr. J. Zeamer, a director of the Hamil- 
ton Library Association, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania: 

"A William Hoge came to America from Scotland in 1682, 
when a young man. On the vessel with him was a Hume family, 
father, mother and daughter. The father James Hume was a 
brother of David Hume. On the voyage both parents died, and 
William Hoge took charge of the daughter, and afterwards mar- 
ried her. Her name was Barbara. They settled at Perth Amboy, 
New Jersey, and their first child was John Hoge. He married 
Gwentholeen Bowen Davis, and about 1730 settled where now is 
Hogestown, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He had four sons: 
John, David, Jonathan and Benjamin. Benjamin died young; John 
became a Presbyterian preacher, and was a member of the first 
class that graduated from Princeton. David and Jonathan lived 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 39 

and died at Hogestown, and were long prominent and influential 
in the political, business and social life of that section. David 
was sheriff of Cumberland County from 1768 to 1771, and was suc- 
ceeded by Ephraim Baline. Ephraim Blaine's eldest son James 
married David Hoge's daughter Jane, who died about a year 
afterwards. David Hoge died December 5, 1804; his brother 
Jonathan had died in 1800." 

This Ephraim Blaine was the Colonel Ephraim Blaine of 
the Revolution; he was the father of James, who was the father 
of Ephraim L. Blaine, the father of our James G. Blaine. 

So much for David Hoge, who on October 13, 1781, laid out the 
town of Washington, Pennsylvania, incorporated into a borough 
on February 12, 1810. The town of Washington as laid out on the 
date mentioned formed a square, the southwestern comer being 
at the comer of the present West Maiden Street and Ruple's Alley. 
Its eastern and western boundaries ran north 12% degrees west. 
Much the greater part of the town as first laid out lay on the 
Abraham Hunter survey, "Catfish Camp," and the smaller part, 
north of a line running from near Gay (now West Wheeling) 
Street and Ruple's Alley, to a point a little east of Walnut street 
and Monongahela (now Main) Street, lay on the Joseph Hunter 
survey, "Grand Cairo." 

Why the names Catfish Run and Catfish Camp? 

From the best information obtainable there were no settle- 
ments or homes of Indian tribes within the present limits of 
Washington County, but the lands between the Monongahela and 
the Ohio seem to have been preserved by the Indians as their 
hunting grounds. The many remains all over the county called 
Indian mounds and burial grounds indicate permanent dwelling- 
places of another and earlier race of people called the Mound- 
Builders, for want of a better name for the unknown. 

Among the Indian hunters frequenting this region in the 
hunting season, was a chief of the Delaware tribe of Indians hav- 
ing their home at Kuskuskie, beyond the Ohio, who was called 
Tingooqua, another Indian name for Catfish. He was a leading 
man in his tribe and made a very fine speech before the Supreme 
Executive Council in the State-House at Philadelphia, on December 
4, 1759: VIII. Col. Rec. 417. This old Indian gave his name not 
only to our Catfish Run, but to another small stream in what is 
now Snowden Township, Allegheny County, which rises in the 
southern part of Bethel Township, and empties into Peters Creek 
in Snowden Township, about two miles southeast from the village 

40 Washington County Historical Society. 

of Library. Old Catfish had more than one hunting camp in this 

It is said that Tingooqua had his camp when in the neigh- 
borhood of the present Washington at different points, which is 
altogether probable. But his camp as fixed when the town of 
Washington was first laid out is easily determined, if any reliance 
may be placed upon the plan of the town as made on October 13, 
1781, known to be accurate when indicating fixed natural points. 
Lot No. 1 on the original plan is the lot on the eastern comer 
of West Maiden Street and Ruple's Alley, and lot No. 2 adjoins 
No. 1 on the east. Extend the line between these two lots south- 
wardly across Catfish Run and you strike a point marked on the 
plan with three tents and the words "Catfish Camp" and this 
line carries you to a point near the large spring on the present 
Trinity Hall grounds. At that point must have been Catfish's 
Camp as known at that time, and it should be marked perma- 

But where was Augusta Town to which the removal of the 
county court for the District of West Augusta was changed from 
Catfish Camp in August or September, 1776? 

Most likely that court, intending to remove its seat of justice 
to Catfish Camp, found that the tract of land or place known by 
that name had been surveyed under a Pennsylvania warrant 
and was then held by a citizen of Cumberland County, and there- 
fore, under a kind of application of the doctrine of cy pres, endeav- 
ored to get as near to the place Intended as possible, and instead 
of establishing the court on Catfish Run, set it up just beyond the 
hill to the west on land held by an adherent of the Virginia juris- 
diction, but a few rods from the tracts called Catfish Camp and 
Grand Cairo. 

Richard Yeates had made or acquired settlement rights under 
the laws of Virginia to several tracts of land, all lying about the 
Hunter surveys heretofore mentioned. One of these tracts, con- 
taining 284 acres, lay a little to the southwest of the present 
Washington, reached toward the town nearly to the top of the 
ridge upon which stands the distributing reservior of the Citizens 
Water Works Company, and extended westward across Chartiers 
Creek, including the present dam at the water-works pump station. 
The old Graves Creek Road from Catfish Camp passed up across 
what is known to us as "Kalorama," or the old Stockton quarries, 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 41 

north of the water works distributing reservoir on the hill, thence 
to the crossing of Ghartiers Creek a little to the south of said pump 
station, thence on to Graves Greek on the Ohio River below the 
present Wheeling. 

On June 5, 1784, Daniel Leet and wife by deed of that date 
(in D. B. "A," vol. 1, p. 304) conveyed to John Gabby of Washington 
County, Maryland, a tract on "Shirtee Creek," containing by esti- 
mate 120 acres. This tract lay to the south of the Richard Yeates 
tract above mentioned. And on June 8, 1784, Richard Teates 
(no wife Joining) by deed of that date (in D. B. "A," vol. 1, p. 306) 
conveyed to John Gabby of Washington County, Maryland, a tract 
on "Shirtees Greek" adjoining other land of Richard Teates and 
containing 160 acres. This land was the southern part of the 
Richard Yeates land first above mentioned and embraced the 
Graves Creek Road and crossing of the Ghartiers at the present 
pump station. 

John Gabby, thus acquiring about 280 acres, and residing near 
the present Hagerstown, Washington County, Maryland, never 
came to Washington County, Pennsylvania. He* had a brother 
James, however, who did come thither and settled upon the land 
sooner or later after its purchase, having acquired an undivided 
. one-half interest therein by an assignment or transfer not yet 
discovered. At all events, John Gabby removed to Letterkenny 
Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, where he died, and on 
August 17, 1812, William and Joseph Gabby, the executors of his 
will, by deed of that date (in D. B. "X," vol. 1, Part 1, p. 128) 
acknowledged before a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of 
Franklin County, conveyed to James Gabby of Washington County, 
Pennsylvania, "the one undivided half part of a tract on Ghartiers 
Creek, containing in the whole 284 acres, strict measure, which 
tract was granted by patent to the said John Gabby by the Com- 
monwealth of Pennsylvania, December 10, 1786." 

This James Gabby was the father of William Gabby, who was 
bom on this land in 1803 and died on May 21, 1883, and was the 
William Gabby mentioned by Dr. Creigh in his account of the old 
Virginia court-house, heretofore referred to. He was the father 
of James F. Gabby and a number of other sons and daughters, 
who on March 11, 1884, joined in conveying to William A. Gabby, 
another son, by deed of that date (in D. B. 240, p. 219), 97 acres 
and 75 perches out of the Richard Yeates tract; and on April 1, 
1902, William A. Gabby and wife, by deed of that date (in D. B. 
276, p. 23) conveyed 79.725 acres of the last mentioned tract to 

42 Washington County Historical Society. 

Jonathan Allison and John W. Donnan, and the record title thereof 
is in Mr. Donnan and the grantees of Mr. Allison to-day. 

Thus is traced the title to that part of the Richard Yeates' 
land upon which stood the old Virginia court-house erected in the 
summer of 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence. 
Mr. James F. Gabby and Mr. William A. Gabby have pointed out 
the spot where their father William Gabby often told them the 
old court-house stood, and they remember well the frequent con- 
versations with their father upon the subject, and the appearances 
of the soil when plowed over, indicative of the existence long ago 
of a building of some kind upon the place pointed out. The place 
is on the upper side and near the cross-road from the Cumberland 
Road to the Upper Ten Mile Plank Road, and near to the point 
of land overlooking the Graves Creek Road as it passed over to 
the creek-crossing a little to the south of the Citizens Water 
Company's Pump Station. This location is perhaps superior for 
a town to that of Washington placed five years afterward upon 
"Catfish Camp" • and "Grand Cairo," but Augusta Town never 
materialized, and may also be called a lost town. 

And thus has been sketched something of the celebrated 
Boundary Controversy between Pennsylvania and Virginia, in the 
days which tried men's souls, and when all around us was a 
wilderness in comparison with what it is to-day; the courts of 
justice held by Virginia, within the limits of Pennsylvania, when 
she held such control that it seemed likely to be permanent; and 
especially the old court-house of the County Court for the District 
of West Augusta, of the Colony of Virginia, within less than one 
mile by a direct line from the present magnificent Temple of 
Justice of Washington County, Pennsylvania. To mark the place 
where this old court-house stood, for the information of the people 
to come after us, we now place the granite memorial tablet with the 
inscription quoted at the beginning of this paper. 
May 10, 1905. 

Old Court-House for West Augusta, Virginia. 43 


The erection of the memorial tablet for the purposes discussed 
in the foregoing pages was brought about finally by the following 
correspondence : 

The Washington County Hiatoricai Society, 

Washington, Pa., February 22, 1905. 
To John W. Donnan, Esq., 
and others, owners of 
the W. A. Gabby Farm, 
Washington, Pa.: 
Dear Sirs: — 

The Washington County Historical Society desires to erect a 
commemorative tablet upon the spot on the Wm. A. Gabby Farm 
where in 1776, before the western boundary of Pennsylvania was 
ascertained and established, was * held the County Court for the 
District of Wiest Augusta, Virginia, the first court of justice ever 
held by any English-speaking people west of the Monongahela 
River; the tablet to be three feet long, two feet high above a light 
base, and two feet thick, made of the best granite, with an appro- 
priate inscription, and at a cost to the society of Fifty (50) Dollars^ 
finished ready for placing in position. 

Will you kindly express to the society whether or not you are 
willing to permit the tablet to be erected and maintained upon 
said farm, for the purpose stated? 

Very Respectfully, 

Boyd Crumrine, 

Washington, Pa., February 22, 1905. 
To the President of 

The Washington County Historical Society. 
Dear Sir: — 

In reply to your letter of this date, with reference to the 
erection of a tablet commemorative of the County Court held by 
the State of Virginia, in 1776, on what is now known as the Wm. 
A. Gabby Farm, we would state that, as the owners of said farm. 

44 Washington County Historical Society. 

we willingly grant permission to your society to erect such tablet 
on the spot where that court was held; and, in further aid and 
approval of the purpose of your society, we will provide for main- 
taining the tablet and its reasonable care and protection in the 
future, and, moreover, we will pay the cost of its construction to the 
amount of Fifty (50) Dollars, as stated in your communication. 

We are. Yours very Truly, etc., 

John W. Don nan, 
D. M. Donehoo, 
A. M. Brown, 
John Slater, 
Ernest F. Acheson, 
Alex. M. Templeton, 
J. V. Clark, 
Rob't L. McCarrell, 
Edw. M. Behen. 

The sincere thanks of the society were at once returned to the 
gentlemen according the permission desired, and the memorial 
tablet was soon constructed and has now been placed in position^ 
It was placed to stand due north and south in its length, facing 
on the side of the inscription due west, but it is not exactly parallel 
with the public highway in front of it. The highway may be 
changed in time, but it is hoped that the granite marker, weighing 
2800 pounds, may remain undisturbed for generations yet unborn. 

A word as to the illustrative maps. The map in front of the 
title-page represents the Virginia Occupation of Southwestern Penn- 
sylvania from the time of the earliest settlements therein, say in 
1767, until Washington County, Pennsylvania, was erected in 1781, 
although the southwestern comer of that State was not established 
and the western boundary laid down due north to Lake Erie until 
1784-1785. The old District of West Augusta, Virginia, created in 
December, 1774, and embracing the Virginia counties carved out of 
it in October, 1776, is clearly shown; and as well are shown the 
present counties of Pennsylvania within the territory then occupied 
by Virginia. Augusta Town, the county seat of the Old District of 
West Augusta, is indicated by the cross-mark at Washington, Pa. 
Short Creek, on which was Black's Cabin, the first county seat of 
Ohio County, Virginia, is not shown on the map, but it emptied 
into the Ohio from the east south of Buffalo Creek. The county 
seat of Yohogania County, Virginia, is indicated by "Yough. C. H.," 

Old Court- House for West Augusta, Virginia. 45 

on the Monongahela River between the mouths of Mingo Creek and 
Peters Creek. The county seat of Monongalia County was on 
Georges Creek in the present Fayette County, opposite the mouth 
of Whiteley Creek in the present Greene County, Pennsylvania, 
This map was copied from the map drawn by J. Sutton Wall, 
Esq., and published in the Annual Report of the Secretary of 
Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania, for 1895, p. A. 197; and that map 
followed for the most part an original map of the same subject, 
drawn for Crumrine's History of Washington County, page 182, by 
John G. Ruple, C. E., of Washington, Pa. 

For the map entitled "Catfish Camp — ^Augusta Town" at the 
end of the paper the writer is indebted to the kindness of Mr. J. B. 
Vaughan and Mr. John G. Ruple, C. E., both of Washington, Pa., 
and it may be relied upon in all its details, unless it be that the 
position given to the Citizens Water Company's Reservoir on the 
line A B should be a little farther towards A, perhaps at the 
point where the line from the south strikes that line. The position 
of the lines of the Hunter surveys, the first in the territory, are 
correctly laid down by courses and distances; but, it is not known 
now that any of the four comers ABC and D, remain perma- 
nently marked. The comer A, however, is known to have been 
at or very near the point where the road to the LeMoyne Crematory 
leaves Dewey Avenue in the present Fifth Ward of Washington, 
and it is also known that the narrow alley east of the Washington 
Electric Light and Power Company, and west of Wade Avenue 
in East Washington, is a part of the line A D, the comer D being at 
or near the residence at this date of James M. McBumey, Esq. 
The original plan of the town of Washington, with the first and 
the present names of its streets and alleys, is carefully located, 
Monongahela (now Main) street, and the other streets and alleys 
parallel with it, being laid down north twelve and one-half degrees 

The tracts shown to the south of the Hunter tracts represent 
the lines of some of- the adjoining original surveys. That in the 
name of "Richard Yates" was held by him by a settlement right 
under the laws of Virginia from some time prior to 1776; and, 
after the final agreement between the Pennsylvania and Virginia 
commissioners as to where the western boundary of Pennsylvania 
should be run on the ground, the Virginia commissioners, holding 
sessions at Redstone Old Fort (now Brownsville) and at Cox's 
Fort on the Monongahela south of the mouth of Mingo Creek, 

46 Washington County Historical Societv. 

granted Mr. Teatee a. Certificate of Entry ol Date December 16, 1779, 
for 284 acres, upon the southern end of which In 1TT6 had been 
establisbed the County Court for the District of West Augusta, 
at a contemplated county seat to be called Augusta Town, repre- 
sented by B. In 1784, Richard Teatea conveyed to John Gabby 
160 acres along the soutbweetem boundary of this tract. Including 
the Bite of the old court-house. 

This last mentioned map, except as to the location of the town 
of Washington, was made, not from actual surveys, but followed a 
cmnectlng draft made and certified from the office of the Surveyor 
General of Pennsylvania, of date March 23, 1821, now In the posses- 
sion of the writer. 

The original manuscript volumes containing the records of 
all the old Virginia Courts referred to In the foregoing sketch, are 
In the Library and Museum of the Washington County Historical 
Society; but they have been published In full, with Introdactory 
sketches by the writer. In the Annals of tbe Carnegie Museum, 
Schenley Park, Pittsburg, Pa., where may be found the records of 
the county courts For the District of West Augusta, In Vol. I., No. 
4, pp. 505-B68. For the County of Yohoganla, in Vol. II., No.1, pp. 
71-140, continued in Vol. 11., No. 2, pp. 205-429. For the County of 
Ohio, In Vol. in., No. 1, pp. 6-78. And Deed Book, for the District 
of West Augusta, in Vol. HI., No. 2, pp. 237-327. 


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